Rasmussen Reports

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Rasmussen Reports is an American polling company, founded in 2003. [3] The company engages in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information. Rasmussen Reports conducts nightly tracking, at national and state levels, of elections, politics, current events, consumer confidence, business topics, and the United States president's job approval ratings.

Phone surveys by the company are conducted via the use of automated public opinion polling involving pre-recorded telephone inquiries. The company generates revenue by selling advertising and subscriptions to its polling survey data.

History

Rasmussen Reports, was founded in 2003 by Scott Rasmussen, who served as the company's president from its founding until July 2013, when he left to found the digital media company Styrk. [2] [4] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Rasmussen founded his first polling company in 1994. [11] That company, Rasmussen Research, was bought by TownPagesNet.com for about $4.5 million in ordinary shares in 1999. [12] Starting in 1999, Rasmussen's poll was called Portrait of America. [13] In 2003, Rasmussen founded Rasmussen Reports, based in Asbury Park, New Jersey. In August 2009, the Washington Post reported that Rasmussen Reports had received a “major growth capital investment.” New Jersey Business magazine reported that the company increased the size of its staff later that year. [17]

Business model

Rasmussen Reports engages in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information, tracking the political world, current events, consumer confidence, business topics, and the president's job approval ratings. [3] Rasmussen Reports also conducts nightly national tracking polls and scheduled state surveys. The company provides commentary and political analysis through a daily email newsletter. In September 2012, Rasmussen Reports and Telco Productions launched a nationally syndicated television show called What America Thinks With Scott Rasmussen. [18] [19]

Rasmussen Reports polls make use of automated public opinion polling, involving pre-recorded telephone inquiries. [20] These types of polls are believed to produce results at low cost, although some traditional pollsters are skeptical of this methodology and prefer traditional, operator-assisted polling techniques. [21] Rasmussen's automated survey calls are conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, a firm that licensed methodology developed by Scott Rasmussen. [22] Rasmussen Reports generates revenue by selling advertising and subscriptions. [23]

Polling topics

Political sentiment

Presidential approval tracking

Rasmussen Reports conducts a daily Presidential Tracking Poll which measures the president’s job approval rating. [24] [25] Rasmussen Reports notes that, "It is important to remember that the Rasmussen Reports job approval ratings are based upon a sample of likely voters. Some other firms base their approval ratings on samples of all adults. Obama's numbers are almost always several points higher in a poll of adults rather than likely voters. That's because some of the president's most enthusiastic supporters, such as young adults, are less likely to turn out to vote." [24] [26] Newsweek also notes that polls of all adults produce results that are more favorable to Democrats than do polls of likely voters. Since Scott Rasmussen's departure from the polling firm in July 2013, Rasmussen Reports polls have consistently ranked as the most favorable poll in President Obama's favorability rating. [27] Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com notes that, "Rasmussen's Obama job approval ratings do tend to be lower than most other polls, but they are not the lowest." [28]

In March 2009, a Rasmussen Reports poll was the first to show President Barack Obama's approval rating falling. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Scott Rasmussen, along with President Clinton's pollster, Douglas Schoen, said, "Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001. Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama's net presidential approval rating -- which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve -- is just six, his lowest rating to date." [97]

Generic Congressional Ballot

Each week, Rasmussen Reports updates a Generic Congressional Ballot Poll. The poll tracks what percentage of likely voters would vote for the Republican in their district’s congressional race if the election were held today, and what percentage of likely voters would choose the Democrat instead. [30] In 2009, Rasmussen Reports produced the first poll that showed Democrats trailing on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the 2010 midterm elections. [32]

Healthcare reform

Since 2009, Rasmussen Reports has tracked attitudes about health care reform legislation on a weekly basis. Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010, Rasmussen Reports has consistently measured double-digit support for repeal of the law. Across 100 polls taken from March 2010 to July 2012, likely voters have favored repeal by an average margin of 16 percentage points. [35]

Political Class/Mainstream Index

Rasmussen Reports tracks the gap between what it labels "Mainstream Voters" and the "Political Class." [36] According to the Wall Street Journal, "To figure out where people are, he [Rasmussen] asks three questions: Whose judgment do you trust more: that of the American people or America's political leaders? Has the federal government become its own special interest group? Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors? Those who identify with the government on two or more questions are defined as the political class."

Other

Rasmussen Reports conducts a weekly tracking poll that asks voters whether they think the country is heading in the right direction or is on the wrong track. [33] [34] The company also provides regular updates on topics including global warming and energy issues, housing, the war on terror, the mood of America, Congress and the Supreme Court, importance of issues, partisan trust, and trends in public opinion. In 2007, Tony Snow, White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, attacked a Rasmussen poll that showed only 19% of Americans believed the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 was a success. [38]

David Weigel wrote that, "where Rasmussen Reports really distinguishes itself, and the reason it’s so often cited by conservatives, is in its issue polling. Before the stimulus debate began, Rasmussen asked voters whether they’d favor stimulus plans that consisted entirely of tax cuts or entirely of spending. Tax cuts won every time, and Republicans began citing this when they argued for a tax-cut-only stimulus package." [39]

In May 2012, a Rasmussen Reports poll found that "a solid majority of voters nationwide favor legalizing and regulating marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated.” Of those polled, 56% favored legalizing and regulating marijuana, while 36% were opposed to legalizing and regulating the drug. [40]

In July 2012, a Rasmussen Reports poll found that over two-thirds of Americans would fire every member of Congress. In January 2013, a Rasmussen Reports poll found record low levels of support for the Tea Party movement. Of those polled, 30% held a favorable view of the Tea Party, 49% held an unfavorable view, and only 8% identified as a part of the group. [42]

Elections

Presidential

2000

In the 2000 presidential election, Scott Rasmussen polled under the name Portrait of America, a predecessor to Rasmussen Reports. [13] The Portrait of America prediction for the 2000 presidential election was off by 4.5%, [43] compared to the average 1.1% margin of error most other national polls gave at the time. [44]

2004

In the 2004 presidential election, "Rasmussen...beat most of their human competitors in the battleground states, often by large margins," according to Slate magazine. [45] Rasmussen projected the 2004 presidential results within one percentage point of the actual vote totals earned by both George W. Bush and John Kerry. [99]

In 2004, Slate said they “publicly doubted and privately derided Rasmussen” polls because of the methodology. However, after the election, they concluded that Rasmussen’s polls were the most accurate. [45]

2008

According to Politico, "Rasmussen's final poll of the 2008 general election—showing Obama defeating Arizona Sen. John McCain 52 percent to 46 percent—closely mirrored the election's outcome." [47] In reference to the 2008 presidential election, a Talking Points Memo article said, "Rasmussen's final polls had Obama ahead 52%-46%, which was nearly identical to Obama's final margin of 53%–46%, and made him one of the most accurate pollsters out there." [48] An analysis by Costas Panagopolous in 2009 ranked 23 survey research organizations on the accuracy of their final, national pre-election polls based upon Obama's 7.2% margin of victory; the analysis determined that Rasmussen Reports was tied for 9th most accurate. Democracy Corps, Foxnews/Opinion Dynamic, CNN/Opinion Research, and Ipsos/McClatchy all predicted an accurate seven point spread.

Rasmussen Reports polls predicted the correct winner in 46 states. Its final polls of Florida, Indiana and North Carolina all showed leads for McCain. Obama went on to win all three of these states. Rasmussen's poll of Ohio on 2 November 2008 showed a tied race there. Obama went on to win the state by 4 percentage points. [49] [50]

2012

The final 2012 Electoral College projection by Rasmussen Reports showed 237 safe electoral votes for Barack Obama, 206 safe electoral votes for Mitt Romney, and eight toss-up states with a total of 95 electoral votes. [51] [52] [53]

The final Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll showed Mitt Romney with 49 percent national support and President Obama with 48 percent national support. [54] Obama won the election by close to 4 percentage points. The final Rasmussen Reports' pre-election polls showed Obama winning Nevada and New Hampshire, tying Romney in Ohio and Wisconsin, and losing in the other five swing states, including North Carolina. Obama won in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Virginia, while Romney took North Carolina. [55]

A Fordham University study by Dr. Costas Panagopoulos compared pre-election polling with the results from election day. The study ranked Rasmussen Reports 24th out of 28 polls in accuracy, one slot above Gallup. [56] An analysis by Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight ranked Rasmussen 20th out of 23 pollsters for accuracy in the 2012 elections with an average error of 4.2 points. After the election, James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Some conservative media outlets used the Rasmussen polling to prop up a narrative in the final days of the campaign that Romney had momentum and a good chance of winning the White House." [58]

On November 7, Scott Rasmussen told Slate's David Weigel, "In general, the projections were pretty good. The two differences I noted were share of white vote falling to 72 percent. That’s what the Obama campaign, to their credit, said all along. We showed it just over 73 percent. Also, youth turnout higher and senior turnout lower than expected. That’s a pretty big deal given the size of the generation gap. I think it showed clearly that the Obama team had a great game plan for identifying their vote and getting it to the polls." [59]

On November 8, the Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracking poll analysis said "The 2012 election was very likely the last presidential election of the telephone polling era. While the industry did an excellent job of projecting the results, entirely new techniques will need to be developed before 2016. The central issue is that phone polling worked for decades because that was how people communicated. In the 21st century, that is no longer true." [60]

2016

Rasmussen Reports’ final White House Watch survey showed Democrat Hillary Clinton with a 2.0% Popular Vote lead over Republican Donald Trump. [100] After all 136+ million U.S. votes were counted, Hillary Clinton won the Popular Vote by 2.1%. [101] In a post-election commentary entitled "Issues Mattered After All," Rasmussen Reports’ Managing Editor wrote "The media created a false narrative about the 2016 presidential campaign, and most polling reinforced it. Controversy was the name of the media game, most of it focused on Republican Donald Trump, and many media outlets, most prominently the New York Times, and many pollsters were saying a little over a month ago that Democrat Hillary Clinton had already won. But the three daily tracking polls – the Los Angeles Times, IBD/TIPP, and Rasmussen Reports – consistently showed a much tighter race." [102] As in 2012 (see above), a Fordham University study by Dr. Costas Panagopoulos, [103] who once served in the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, compared pre-election polling with the results from Election Day. The study ranked 14 organizations but, unlike 2012, chose to omit the results of Rasmussen Reports. [7] An American Research Group study [7] based on the method of Martin, Traugott, and Kennedy, [7] found that Rasmussen Reports had the highest accuracy among 25 pollsters in the 2016 election.

Congressional and gubernatorial

In the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial race, Rasmussen Reports' final poll predicted that Chris Christie would beat Jon Corzine by a margin of 3 points. Christie won the race with a spread of 4.3 points. [7] In December 2009, Alan Abramowitz wrote that if Rasmussen's data was accurate, Republicans would gain 62 seats in the House during the 2010 midterm elections. [7] In a column written the week before the 2010 midterm elections, Rasmussen stated his belief that Republicans would gain at least 55 seats in the House and end up with 48 or 49 Senate seats. [7] Republicans ended up gaining 63 seats in the House, and coming away with 47 Senate seats. [7]

In 2010, Rasmussen Reports was the first to show Republican Scott Brown had a chance to defeat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race. Just after Brown's upset win, Ben Smith at Politico reported, "The overwhelming conventional wisdom in both parties until a Rasmussen poll showed the race in single digits in early January was that Martha Coakley was a lock. (It's hard to recall a single poll changing the mood of a race quite that dramatically.)" [7] A study by Boston University and the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism about how the Massachusetts Senate race was covered in the media concluded, "Rasmussen Report's poll that showed the overwhelming Republican underdog, Scott Brown, climbing to within single digits (nine points) of Martha Coakley. That poll, perhaps more than anything else, signaled that a possible upset was brewing and galvanized both the media and political worlds." [7] The New York Times Magazine opened a March 14 cover story with a scene highlighting the impact of that poll in an internal White House meeting involving President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. However, Rasmussen's polls all showed Coakley with the lead, including their final poll which had Coakley with a 2-point lead. [8]

According to Nate Silver's assessment of 2010 pollster accuracy, the 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen/Pulse Opinion Research missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points. [69]

Business

In the business realm, Rasmussen Reports released daily updates of Consumer and Investor Confidence with daily tracking back to 2002. The broad trends are similar to measures produced by the Conference Board and University of Michigan, but Rasmussen is the only consumer confidence measure updated daily. The firm also releases a monthly Rasmussen Employment Index, a U.S. Consumer Spending Index, Small Business Watch, and a Financial Security Index.

Use

Polls by Rasmussen Reports are cited regularly by multiple major news sources, and Rasmussen has appeared as a guest analyst on a number of news broadcasts, including the Fox News Channel, the BBC, CNN, NPR, and CNBC and local television affiliates. According to The New York Times Magazine, the White House Political Director reported on Rasmussen’s results directly to President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The Washington Post reported that Rasmussen’s polls “set off alarm bells inside the Oval Office, according to a senior administration official, who would not be quoted by name discussing private deliberations within the White House.”

Evaluations of accuracy and performance

Favorable

Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen wrote in 2010 that Rasmussen has an "unchallenged record for both integrity and accuracy." [99] Slate Magazine and The Wall Street Journal reported that Rasmussen Reports was one of the most accurate polling firms for the 2004 United States presidential election and 2006 United States general elections. [45] [8] In 2004 Slate magazine "publicly doubted and privately derided" Rasmussen's use of recorded voices in electoral polls. However, after the election, they concluded that Rasmussen’s polls were among the most accurate in the 2004 presidential election. [45] According to Politico, Rasmussen's 2008 presidential-election polls "closely mirrored the election's outcome." [72]

At the end of the 2008 presidential election, there were eight national tracking polls and many other polls conducted on a regular basis. Polling analyst Nate Silver reviewed the tracking polls and said that while none were perfect, and Rasmussen was "frequently reputed to have a Republican lean", the "house effect" in their tracking poll was small and "with its large sample size and high pollster rating [it] would probably be the one I'd want with me on a desert island." [8]

In the January 2010 special election for the Senate seat from Massachusetts, Rasmussen Reports was the first to show that Republican Scott Brown had a chance to defeat Martha Coakley. Just after Brown's upset win, Ben Smith at Politico reported, “The overwhelming conventional wisdom in both parties until a Rasmussen poll showed the race in single digits in early January was that Martha Coakley was a lock. (It's hard to recall a single poll changing the mood of a race quite that dramatically.)" [8] A few days later, Public Policy Polling released the first poll showing Brown in the lead, a result differing from Rasmussen's by 10 points. [8] Rasmussen's last poll on the race found Coakley with a 2-point lead, when she in fact lost by 5 points, a 7-point error. [8]

Criticism

FiveThirtyEight blog

In 2010, Nate Silver of The New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight wrote the article "Is Rasmussen Reports biased?", in which he mostly defended Rasmussen from allegations of bias. [8] However, later in the year, Rasmussen's polling results diverged notably from other mainstream pollsters, which Silver labeled a "house effect." [9] He went on to explore other factors which may have explained the effect such as the use of a likely voter model, [9] and claimed that Rasmussen conducted its polls in a way that excluded the majority of the population from answering. [9]

After the 2010 midterm elections, Silver concluded that Rasmussen's polls were the least accurate of the major pollsters in 2010, having an average error of 5.8 points and a pro-Republican bias of 3.9 points according to Silver's model. [69] Conservative polling analyst Neil Stevens wrote, "after the primaries [Silver] said Rasmussen was in his crosshairs for ducking out on a number of races by not polling primaries." [9] FiveThirtyEight currently rates Rasmussen Reports with a C+ grade and notes a simple average error of 5.3 percent across 657 polls analyzed. [9]

Other

Time magazine has described Rasmussen Reports as a "conservative-leaning polling group." [9] The Washington Post called Rasmussen a "polarizing pollster." [9] John Zogby said that Scott Rasmussen has a "conservative constituency." [9] The Center for Public Integrity listed "Scott Rasmussen Inc" as a paid consultant for the 2004 George W. Bush campaign. [9] The Washington Post reported that the 2004 Bush re-election campaign had used a feature on the Rasmussen Reports website that allowed customers to program their own polls, and that Rasmussen asserted that he had not written any of the questions nor assisted Republicans.

Rasmussen has received criticism over the wording in its polls. [9] [91] Asking a polling question with different wording can affect the results of the poll; [92] the commentators in question allege that the questions Rasmussen ask in polls are skewed in order to favor a specific response. For instance, when Rasmussen polled whether Republican voters thought Rush Limbaugh was the leader of their party, the specific question they asked was: "Agree or Disagree: 'Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party—he says jump and they say how high.'" [91]

Talking Points Memo has questioned the methodology of Rasmussen's Presidential Approval Index, which takes into account only those who "strongly" approve or disapprove of the President's job performance. TPM noted that this inherently skews negative, and reported that multiple polling experts were critical of the concept. [48] A New York Times article claims Ramussen Reports research has a "record of relying on dubious sampling and weighting techniques."

A 2017 article by Chris Cillizza for CNN raised doubts about Rasmussen's accuracy, drawing attention specifically to potential sampling biases such as the exclusion of calls to cell-phones (which, Cillizza argued, tended to exclude younger voters), and also more generally to a lack of methodological disclosure. Cillizza did, however, note in the same piece that Rasmussen was one of the more accurate polling organizations during the 2016 United States presidential election. [113]

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